A Federal Government Shared Service Success Story: Buyandsell.gc.ca
Phoenix, the federal government’s pay modernization initiative, aptly illustrates the federal government’s challenges with successfully deploying shared services. Phoenix, Shared Travel Services, and the Government of Canada Marketplace demonstrate that traditional waterfall project management coupled with an excessive emphasis on specifications can exacerbate risk and produce less-than-ideal results.
On schedule and on budget, Buyandsell.gc.ca began hosting the Government Electronic Tendering Services on June 1 2013. The shared services offered on Buyandsell.gc.ca help more than 80,000 private sector suppliers and buyers representing more than 90 federal departments and agencies to focus on doing business, instead of figuring out how to do business. Buyandsell.gc.ca hosts more than 1 million page views per month.
Buyandsell.gc.ca constitutes a series of successful transformation projects. These projects are a possible template for transforming government services to citizens. However, in the Buyandsell.gc.ca case, leading stakeholders never considered transformation their goal and at no time was their work managed as a transformation project.
Buyandsell.gc.ca is the result of an iterative process of discovery. The team asked open questions and was open to all possible answers. They eschewed traditional requirements definition and delivered incremental improvements guided by a strategic intent: to improve the user experience of tender management. By allowing tender creators and consumers to validate the improvements via real systems, and by accepting a long-term process of continued short-term iteration, a transformed system was made operational. That system is built upon loosely coupled foundation (platform) components that can be added to in order to deliver additional services without impacting Buyandsell.gc.ca itself.
While this approach remains unfamiliar to many in the federal government, it is based upon Agile methodologies widely used in the private sector. These techniques present a lower risk than the waterfall project management approach (the National Project Management System) traditionally use for federal government projects.
This presentation summarizes key Lessons Learned in the conception, design, implementation, and delivery of Buyandsell.gc.ca. It references best Agile practices in relation to its achievements.
Outline/structure of the Session
Our team compiles lessons learned during our major building phases. We operate in an AGILE-ish environment. We use bi-weekly iterations driven by what begin as broadly defined business outcomes that are refined into executable business requirements.
Each lesson is accompanied both by the mistakes we made and things we improved. Broadly the lessons were:
Lesson 1 - Discover needs and deliver solutions in manageable chunks
Do not allow a long-horizon project management methodology to override practical, business-driven outcomes with early, demonstrable results. If you assume you know more about the problem than you really do, you risk committing to a solution path too early.
Lesson 2 - Manage community engagement with prioritized, doable roadmaps
Stakeholder expectations must be managed throughout the project.
Successful projects deliver a working service to its stakeholders. It must do what is expected and stakeholders must be willing to use it. Unsuccessful projects miss one or both of these conditions.
Lesson 3 - Have long-term strategic goals, but short-term working pilots
Traditional project management systems (often modelled on construction projects) tend to deliver usable components only at the very end of a long development cycle. To have meaningful engagement, stakeholders must be able to judge tangible results on a regular basis throughout development.
Lesson 4 - Deliver modular, incremental improvements
Do not attempt to deliver all of the solutions to all of the problems at the end of an extended development effort. Rather, provide usable solutions in an incremental fashion, such that stopping at any point still leaves you with measurable gains and workable systems.
Lesson 5 - Have small, skilled teams focus on separate and distinct concerns
Take advantage of modular delivery to allow separation of concerns. By managing each module separately, you can use tools, products, and business knowledge specific to the module to its greatest advantage.
Lesson 6 - Don’t integrate, interoperate
Integration, whether between modules or different systems, requires too much knowledge of the other component’s internals. Interoperation through a clean external interface allows modules to remain independent and autonomous.
Lesson 7 - Take advantage of open technologies
Open technologies provide many significant advantages: they have no external platform dependencies, they are easy to procure, they are broadly supported by large user communities, and they do not create large sunk costs.
Lesson 8 - Don’t ignore things that work
When replacing or improving a service, there is a tendency to start with a “clean slate” without regard to the utility or functionality of existing systems and procedures.
Lesson 9 - Use a dedicated demo environment and keep it real
Avoid two common pitfalls: 1) Using your development environment as a demo environment; 2) Taking shortcuts to make demos work. Make the demos even more useful by using the collected feedback for the next demos.
Lesson 10 - Develop with operations in mind
At some point, discovery and development will give way to operations. Developers should strive to make the transition as frictionless as possible.
The session will conclude with a set of common themes that we identified based on the above lessons.
Participants will be able to:
- Leave with a map of the mistakes our team made along the way as we figured out how to build Buyandsell.gc.ca
- Understand how the Buyandsell.gc.ca projects were framed within the broader context of the National Project Management System
- Suggest areas where Agile methodologies could be applied to solve known federal government challenges
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schedule Submitted 7 months ago
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